7 Top Scholarships for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Community | Education Loan Finance

In the United States, there are 20.6 million people that identify as Asian, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander


This group, commonly referred to as Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI), makes up 8% of the student population at four-year public universities and 6% at private non-profit schools


However, financing a college education can be challenging, especially for new immigrants and first-generation college students. But there are several Asian American scholarships and grants designed specifically to help AAPI students pay for school. 

7 Scholarships for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Students

Scholarships and grants for AAPI students can come from schools, non-profit organizations, and private corporations. You can find them through your school’s financial aid or by searching databases like FastWeb or These are seven of the top scholarships for AAPI students: 

1. Against the Grain Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship

Against the Grain is a non-profit organization that awards the Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship to high school seniors and current college students pursuing associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees. Qualifying students can receive up to $1,500 to pay for their education. 


Students must meet GPA requirements and submit a video presentation showcasing their work and achievements. 


To qualify for the award, students must be of at least 25% Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry and be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. 

2. Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) Scholarship Fund

The APIA Scholarship Fund is a scholarship program for undergraduate students attending any accredited university or college in the U.S. The scholarship is worth between $2,500 and $20,000. 


Special consideration is given to students that live at or below the federal poverty level, are the first in their families to go to college, or belong to ethnicities that are underrepresented on college campuses. 

3. Asian Pacific Fund (APF)

The APF operates several scholarship programs, including the following: 

  • Banatao Family Filipino American Education Fund: This scholarship, which provides an annual award of $5,000, is for incoming first-year students of Filipino heritage majoring in engineering, mathematics, computer science, or environmental or physical science. Students must reside in certain counties in California to qualify for the award. 
  • Chin: Shui Kuen and Allen Chin Scholarship: This scholarship provides $1,000 in scholarships to undergraduate students who were employed — or whose parents were employed — at an Asian-owned or Asian cuisine restaurant. The scholarship awards aid to students dedicated to advocacy and social justice work on behalf of Asian American, LGBTQ+, or other progressive causes. 

4. Asian Pacific Islander Organization (APIO) Scholarship

APIO awards scholarships of $500 to undergraduate students currently enrolled in an accredited two-year or four-year college or university. Students must pursue a degree in agricultural business, agronomy, biology, botany, environmental science, forestry, geology, horticulture, plant science, rangeland science, soil science, or agricultural, civil, or environmental engineering. 


The scholarship is limited to AAPI students that are U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals. 

5. OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates (OCA) Gold Mountain Scholarship

In partnership with UPS, OCA awards the Gold Mountain Scholarship to first-generation college students that identify as AAPI. The scholarship provides $2,000 in non-renewable funding. 


Students must be current high school seniors and, if selected, must submit copies of their family’s tax returns to verify income. 


U.S. citizenship is not required for this award. However, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and undocumented students must have a Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to qualify. 

6. The Gates Scholarship

The Gates Scholarship program is a highly selective, last-dollar award. Eligible students will receive an award that covers the full cost of attendance that isn’t paid for by other financial aid or the expected family contribution. The award can pay for expenses like tuition, fees, room and board, books, and even transportation. 


To qualify, students must be high school seniors enrolling full-time at an accredited four-year school. Students must be eligible for the federal Pell Grant, which is based on household income, with high GPAs.

7. The Prism Foundation

The Prism Foundation scholarship program is for students who positively impact the AAPI and LGBTQ+ communities. It awards between $1,000 and $5,000 to current college students. The program is open to students that attend community colleges, four-year schools, and trade or vocational schools. 

Other Ways to Pay for College

Gift aid in the form of scholarships and grants is an excellent starting point when you’re researching your financial aid options. Since they don’t have to be repaid, they can dramatically reduce your out-of-pocket expenses. 


But once you exhaust those opportunities, you may still have education expenses that you need to cover. If that’s the case, these other financing options can help you complete your degree: 


You may be eligible for a work-study position if your college or university participates in the federal work-study program. You’ll get a part-time job related to your major that pays at least minimum wage (some fields pay much higher). Your earnings are paid directly to you, and you can use that money to pay for some of your education expenses, such as your groceries, transportation, or textbooks. 


Eligibility for the work-study program is dependent on the information you submitted in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Contact the financial aid office to find out if work-study is an option for you. 

Federal Financial Aid

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid Social Security number, you may be eligible for federal financial aid, including the following programs: 

  • Federal Direct Subsidized Loans: Subsidized loans are for undergraduate students with financial needs. With these loans, the government pays for the interest that accrues while you’re in school, for six months after you graduate or leave school, and during any periods of deferment. Annual and aggregate borrowing limits apply. 
  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Unsubsidized loans are for undergraduate and graduate students. Unlike subsidized loans, you’re responsible for all interest charges that accrue, but you don’t have to make payments until six months after you leave school. There are limits on how much you can borrow annually and over your lifetime. 
  • Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loans: PLUS loans are loans that parents take out to pay for their child’s undergraduate education. There is no limit on how much parents can borrow. 
  • Federal Direct Grad PLUS Loans: Grad PLUS loans are for graduate and professional students. Like Parent PLUS loans, Grad PLUS loans have no borrowing limits. 


After using scholarships and grants, federal student loans can be a good financing option since they have relatively low-interest rates and multiple repayment options. 

Private Loans 

If you are ineligible for federal financial aid or do not qualify for enough aid to cover the total cost of attendance at your college, you can use private student loans to pay for the remaining amount. 


With private loans, you can borrow up to the total cost of attendance, and lenders offer multiple repayment terms and in-school payment options. 


Private loans are typically credit-based, and you must meet certain income requirements. For example, ELFI requires a credit score of 680 or above and a minimum income of $35,000. If you don’t meet those requirements — and most college students won’t — you may be eligible for a loan if you add a co-signer with good credit and a full-time job to your application. 


You can use ELFI’s Find My Rate tool to check your eligibility and view your loan options without affecting your credit.*

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